The heavy metal fires stoked on the West Coast of the USA decades ago are being kept well lit it seems. LA’s Ancient Spell bring together the best of the early ‘80’s Californian thrash scene and doom it all up for a nice heavy offering. Having only formed in 2012, the band have crafted a solid album in “Forever In Hell”.
They waste no time making their mark. “Under Your Spell” bellows out and what instantly hits the listener is the tightness of the band and the clean production. This has hints of very early Slayer with loads of menace smouldering below the surface. Donnie Marhefka’s vocals border on the psychotic- his delivery is drenched in pain and angst which is something that continues throughout the album. This is a pretty melodic piece with lots of groove and serves as a good introduction to the album. The militaristic stomp of “Cease To Exist” and the swampy, NOLA swagger of “Fall Of Humanity” certainly display their influences.
Up to this point, Ancient Spell have showcased their credentials well but there is the feeling that there’s more inside that needs to come out. “Beyond The Gates” and “Eternal Embers” do the trick and this is where the band start to really flex their muscles and show what they’re capable of. Each track delivers proper head-banging moments with meaty riffs and some guitar work that cuts like a razor. Guitarists, Conrad Viz and Dan Rado work well together while Jeff Clark (bass) and Rob Thompson (drums) keep it all smashing away, ensuring that focus is never lost.
The crunch of “Black Flame Ritual” with its Zakk Wylde-like wail keeps the assault in motion before “March To Your Grave” closes the album with some neat time changes that remind me of Eyehategod. Again the vocals are truly menacing with a psycho-punk aggression that lifts these songs to another level, especially on the latter.
“Forever In Hell” is a rock solid slab of heavy metal. The notable thing is the album’s consistency. Clocking in at around 35 minutes, there’s no real filler, just a well crafted collection of tracks full of intent and purpose. “Forever In Hell” is worth getting a hold of and I, for one, will be keeping an eye out for Ancient Spell in the future.
(7/10 Johnny Zed)